Welcome

Penola House is a workplace where we share and learn new skills to empower new citizens to live life more fully in our Newcastle community.

Penola House is a place of welcome and friendship for refugees and their families.

There is social interaction, faith, skill sharing and lots of fun.

Why is our centre called Penola House?

Father Julian Tenison Woods and Mary MacKillop, Australia’s first saint started a school at Penola in South Australia in 1866. Consequently we remember the small begininnings of the stable in Penola as we carry on the work of Mary MacKilop and The Sisters of St Joseph who support Penola House in Newcastle.

Sister Elizabeth Brown RSJ (aka: Sister Betty Brown), Co-ordinator of Penola House, Josephite Refugee Support Network, Newcastle, NSW.

Two photos of Penola House's Sister Elizabeth Brown RSJ (aka: Sister Betty Brown)

From Left: Sister Elizabeth Brown RSJ (aka: Sister Betty Brown) with Promise, Rebecca's (Liberia, West-Africa) Australian citizenship ceremony with family and friends.

Sister Diana Santleben (aka: Sister Di), Secretary of Penola House, Josephite Refugee Support Network, Newcastle, NSW.

Sister Diana Santleben (aka: Sister Di), Penola House's Secretary, two photos

From Left: Sister Diana Santleben (aka: Sister Di) with Noosh, school graduation.

Featured commet from Johanne Parent

I would like to say hello to Sister Betty.
I was a volunteer at the Penola house for 8 months. I enjoyed being part of the sewing activity on Tuesdays. I met friendly and generous ladies from all over the world. I came back to Canada in May 2009. I am happy to be back in my home town but I miss Australia and its welcoming citiziens. I’ll never forget this wonderful experience .
Thank you again

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Penola House Newcastle is Fund-Raising for 10 Orphaned African Refugees who need help to arrive in Australia

refugee_orphans_penola_house_newcastle
Penola House has been working hard to help these orphans join families in Australia.

Good news today. David, Fabiola and Patrick have been granted a visa. Their long wait has ended.

Donations to support the Penola House bid to bring the orphans to the Newcastle region can be made to the Our 10 Lost Children Fund through any branch of the Commonwealth Bank (BSB 062 194 Account 1010 8045) or directly to Penola House at 3 Wilson Street, Mayfield.

Listen to Sister Di talk to Helen Clare about the 10 orphans story on local ABC radio show: Mornings with Jill Emberson

The following text is from a story in the  Newcastle Herald regarding this matter.

TEN orphaned refugees from African countries ravaged by war and poverty could find a new home in the Hunter, if the hopes of refugee advocate Sister Diana Santleben are realised.

Sister Santleben, from Penola House, has begun a fund-raising drive to raise the estimated $5000 a child needed to deliver the orphans – from two families – to Newcastle.

The cost covers the approval process and airfares from Africa, she said.

Sister Santleben said she was hopeful the Hunter Region would support the cause, which would take the children clear of the violence and uncertainty they had endured.

Each of these children has been orphaned by war.

refugee_orphans_penola_house_newcastle_2

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Penola House has moved to 3 Wilson St. Mayfield, 2304

moving penola house sister di photo

Sister Diana, her cousins John and Michael, Ameka and John Sandie move a cubby house to Penola House for the Room of Memories project.

As of April 2013 Penola House has moved from Hamilton to a great new location, 3 Wilson Street, Mayfield, 2304.

By the way, Mayfield is known as the hair-braiding capital of Newcastle due to the proliferation of African hairdressing salons.

Phone: 02 4979 1371

Mobile: 04 1922 4505

Email: Elizabeth.brown@mn.catholic.org.au

Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday, 10am to 4pm

small map of Penola House's new location, 3 Wilson Street Mayfield

Map and photo of Penola House's new location at 3 Wilson Street, Mayfield, Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Larger map on the Contact page.

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Bishop of South Sudan visits Newcastle’s African Community.

Bishop Santo Loku Pio Doggale photo

Bishop Santo Loku Pio Doggale of South Sudan visited Newcastle to meet and encourage the local African community.

Bishop Santo Loku Pio Doggale, Auxiliary Bishop of Juba, Juba is the capital of the newly independent (July, 2011) republic of South Sudan.

The Bishop visited Newcastle and met the Hunter African Catholic Community. He was happy to see that the refugees from South Sudan were in general doing well in their new lives in Newcastle, Australia.

They showed us their new South Sudanese passports. They were very happy to be free in their own country after many years of war.

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Awards Received over the Years by Penola House Volunteers.

Federal Minister, Greg Combet presented Sister Diana Santleben with the Australia Ambassadors award.

Federal Minister Greg Combet presented Sister Diana Santleben, Secretary of Penola House, with the Australia Ambassadors award.

Penola House is staffed by volunteers who are committed to supporting and empowering refugees as they settle into the local community.

Over the years many of our volunteers have been recognised at award ceremonies in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. Sister Diana, Santino Shanfwaig and Robert Wanyoike were commended in 2012.  We appreciate the time and skills of all who participate in this ministry of service at Penola House. Well done.

The following text is from Minister Combet’s Website.

“Greg Combet, Member for Charlton, today congratulated local refugee advocate, Sister Diana Santleben, who was among the list of 40 People of Australia Ambassadors announced by the Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Sister Di was recognised for her outstanding work in our community, helping to build bridges of understanding and encourage participation.”

Santino Shanfwaig and his wife after receiving a Newcastle Community Volunteer award from Federal MP Sharon Grierson.

Santino Shanfwaig and his wife after receiving a Newcastle Community Volunteer award from Federal MP Sharon Grierson.

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The Hunter Youth Mentor Collaborative Awards

The Hunter Youth Mentor Collaborative awards photos with Sister BettyThe Hunter Youth Mentor Collaborative (HYMC) supports organisations in the Hunter region which provide mentoring and youth development opportunities.

As a member of the collaborative, Penola House has been supportive of many young refugees by facilitating their applications for a scholarship. The success of these students in the studies at University, TAFE and senior High School, evidences the benefits of the financial support received.

These are some of the students who have received scholarships in recent times. We wish them further achievement of their goals. Further information about HYMC is available on their website.

The Hunter Youth Mentor Collaborative awards

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Visiting the John Hunter Hospital at Newcastle.

John Hunter Hospital visit photo montageWe visited the John Hunter hospital at Newcastle for Refugee Week. The Congolese mothers sang and danced and their children participated in the activities of the  hospital school.

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Dancing, Singing, Traditional Clothing and Exotic Food, an African Wedding is a Delight to the Senses.

Penola House West African wedding montage photo

Traditional clothing wore by attendees at a West African wedding in Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

The vibrant energy of a West African wedding, even one experienced in Australia, is something to behold. Sometimes the bride will dance down the aisle while a live chorus fills the auditorium with traditional songs. “An Australian wedding is the most boring thing in the world compared to this”, one Aussie attending his first West African wedding was heard to remark.

Penola House West African wedding photo

Having a great time.

Fried chicken feet and goat’s head soup are considered a delicacy in West Africa and may be on the menu. Okra, fufu (mashed cassava), spicy stews and deep fried chicken will definitely be part of the cuisine of a West African wedding celebration.

Penola house West African wedding montage photo

Vibrant energy of a West African wedding in Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

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CFL Teacher Training in Liberia Helped by Penola House

photos of CFL teacher training at Ganta, Liberia, West-Africa

CFL Executive Director, James B. Kolor Sr. and teacher trainees at Ganta, Liberia, West Africa

Thanks to the generosity of the local community in the Newcastle-Hunter Region, Penola House has been resourced to provide excellent services to the refugees who reach out for help in the local area.

However, when some of our new Aussie citizens are able to return to their countries of origin where some level of safety has been restored, we have been able to send materials to relieve the difficulties of their relatives still living in camps or in dire poverty in a destroyed homeland.

In Liberia, Pastor Kolor is using material we sent to clothe student teachers that will visit and care for orphans in the outlying villages. He sent us some pictures.

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Jerome Rugaruza Congolese refugee reunited with his wife and children after years of indescribable struggle.

Penola House rejoices that their efforts to support Jerome Ruguzura in Newcastle and his family in Africa have come to such a happy conclusion.

Jerome a Newcastle University student has been reunited with his wife Imaculee and their children – Bonfils, 12, Joy, 8, Jessica, 4, and two-year-old King.

Jerome and his family are Banyamulenge Tutsi, a tribal group and are Democratic Republic of Congo nationals.

At one stage, due to conflicts in their homeland Jerome and his wife become separated in diferent refugee camps and for three harrowing years neither knew where the other was, or even if they were alive.

Read the feature story about Jerome and Imaculee published in the Newcastle Herald.
Out of Africa in to Newcastle

Work is needed to ensure that Immaculee’s three siblings (cared for by her since their parents were killed) are united with the Ruguzura family in Australia soon. Read more about the Ruguzura family in the Aurora Page 5.
Aurora online magazine

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Advocacy for improvement in Newcastle refugee housing.

Newcastle refugee slum housing

Sister Diana Santleben advocates for better refugee housing. Photos courtesy Newcastle Herald

Penola House’s Sister Diana Santleben helps draw media and federal government attention to Newcastle refugee families paying exorbitant rent for slum housing.
The result was an inquiry and better housing for Newcastle refugee families.
Read the 15 stories in the Newcastle Herald regarding this matter.
Living in slums
Refugee groups seek legal advice over ‘slums’
Refugee conditions slammed at protest
Lawyer to help refugees
Open mind on refugee housing inquiry
Minister extends time to review refugee housing
House description horrifies owner
New homes for refugees
Hunter refugee report ‘issues’
Report slams refugee housing services
Children moved four times in nine months
Refugee groups agree to co-operate
Clean up your act, refugees services told
Old system welcoming for refugees
Wanted: bigger houses for Newcastle refugees

Television broadcaster NBN also had stories regarding the Newcastle refugee housing problem. The following are external links to the videos on the NBN TV Website.
State of refugee housing to be investigated
Investigation into refugee housing underway
Navitas reponds to claims of unsafe housing
Refugee report response

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